The Shaker Screen Video and FocusDesign Screens

A few years ago, while I was still the Campus Archaeologist with the MSU Campus Archaeology Program, Chris Stawski and I were messing around with a FlipVideo camera on a tiny project located behind the MSU library. We had always wanted to get more into using video for our public engagement, but the time and energy it took to edit videos wasn’t as effective as our other forms of social media outreach, so it never really took off.

Nonetheless, last year I still had the video on my computer, and had recently received a copy of Camtasia courtesy of Mid-Michigan rockstar and TechSmith Chief Evangelist Betsy Weber. I pulled out this footage to start messing around with the new software. One thing led to another, and the following “instructional” video emerged. I spent most of the rest of the day laughing at myself. It’s been up on Vimeo for a while now, and I send it out on Twitter occassionally, but I haven’t been too loud about.

Last week, the nice folks at FocusDesign left a comment on the video, asking if they could use it on their site. I of course said yes. FocusDesign makes the screens that we used at Campus Archaeology, and that I’m shaking in the video. These screens are without a doubt the best tools I’ve used for sifting dirt. They’re made out PVC, meaning they are light weight and sturdy. This particular model, the SoloScreen, acts as a shaker and a stand-up screen, meaning it can be used effectively for any phase of archaeology. Since they’re sturdy, you can toss them in a truck. Since they’re light weight, you can lug them through the woods. They are really masterful pieces of equipment. While they do come at a cost, the lifespan you get out of them is well worth it. We started with two at Campus Archaeology (see photos of them in use on Flickr), and I think they have gradually added more screens in subsequent seasons, cycling out the wooden ones we crafted out of leftover loft wood from the MSU Dormitories (see those being crafted here). At this point, they’ve been in use since 2008, with only the standard issues of the mesh breaking, although I think that only happened once in the two and a half years I worked there. They are definitely one of the things I miss the most about doing field work at MSU.

Since 2008, Focus Design has branched out significantly. They now have assorted types of screens, including wet screens, multi purpose screens, shaker only screens, screens with back pack straps, and the one I have my eye on, the Hand Screen. By far and away, my least favorite type of archaeology screens are hand shaker screens that I always end up with on survey. They’re heavy, particularly when filled with dirt, are difficult to hold, are always falling apart, and regularly provide splinters or cuts from screws or mesh. FocusDesign’s screen would avoid all that, and have a longer shelf-life to boot. I’ll be saving my money.

At any rate, the video was largely me having fun with some new toys. Hopefully, it gives you all a bit of chuckle.

UPDATE: Special thanks to FocusDesign for sending me a Hand Screen! If I ever get out from behind this desk and back into the field, I will be sure to write up another review (and perhaps another funky video).